Principles of peer review at the MRC
Peer review at the MRC is governed by several underlying principles, including those of integrity, confidentiality and anonymity.
The integrity of peer review is of paramount importance. This means that any personal interests as a reviewer must never influence, or be seen to influence, the outcome. We consider that a conflict of interest exists where:
- The applicant is a close friend or relative
- You are directly involved in the work the applicant proposes to carry out
- You may benefit financially from the work (for example if you are involved with a company acting as a project partner)
- You work in the same research organisation as the applicant(s), co-applicant(s) or project partners
- You work closely with the applicant(s) (eg as a co-author or PhD supervisor) or have done within the last five years
If you have one of these conflicts of interest you should decline to review the proposal. This list is not exhaustive, so if you consider that you have a conflict of interest you must declare it. If you have been asked to review through Je-S then you should do this by completing the Declarations of Interest section. This will allow us to decide whether your review is eligible. For reviewers invited directly by the MRC, or if you are unsure whether a conflict exists, please email to discuss with the board or panel team involved.
Our assessment process is confidential in order to protect the innovative research ideas proposed by the applicants.
When you agree to review for the MRC you are bound by a confidentiality agreement, either through the Je-S terms and conditions and reviewer protocol, or a standalone agreement. This means that everything we send you is confidential and must be treated as such at all times. You must not discuss or share the proposal with anyone. If you do not consider that you have the expertise to provide a useful review, without discussing it with a colleague for example, you should decline the invitation.
When reviewing proposals it is important that reviewers avoid storing confidential MRC data on their local IT system, computer or mobile device. If this is unavoidable, in order to protect the information, please adhere to the following guidelines:
- Follow the MRC policy (PDF, 239KB) to encrypt the device or the folder in which the data is to be stored, so that it is protected from unintentional disclosure. At the very least, the data should be compressed (using software like Winzip) and password protected.
- Ensure that you have enabled password or pin protection on your computer or device to prevent unauthorised access to the information.
- Enable auto-lock on the computer or device and set to a maximum of five minutes.
- Avoid joining unknown Wi-Fi networks.
- Never leave your mobile device unattended.
- Securely delete any data when you have completed your review.
- In the event of a data loss, please report the incident to MRC Head Office as soon as possible.
Peer Review is anonymous to support the free and frank exchange of views. You should ensure that you do not inadvertently identify yourself in the text of your review, for example by describing aspects of your own research, or by identifying where you have worked. If you complete the declaration of interest section, this text will be removed before the review is shared with the applicant but the rest of the review is generally not reviewed or edited.
Information rights legislation
All information we hold, including information around peer review, is subject to the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). All requests are considered on a case by case basis and in some cases it might be necessary to seek your view on releasing information relating to the review you have provided.
Further information on how the Peer Review process is used by the Research Councils to make funding decisions and how information relating to Peer Review and the funding of proposals is managed by the Research Councils is available in the RCUK Peer Review Framework.